[WATCH] US quits UN human rights council, calling it a 'cesspool of political bias'

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the 'hypocritical and self-serving" body "makes a mockery of human rights'

Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley

The US has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it a "cesspool of political bias" that targets Israel in particular while ignoring atrocities in other countries.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said she had travelled to the council’s headquarters in Geneva a year ago to call for reforms, to no avail.

She said the "hypocritical and self-serving" body "makes a mockery of human rights".

She added: “The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny and the council continues politicising and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks.”

The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, expressed regret about the US withdrawal. The organisation’s top human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a tweet: “Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back.”

Formed in 2006, the Geneva-based council has been criticised for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

Haley announced her country's intention to quit the council at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She pointed to the election of the Democratic Republic of Congo to council membership in the past year, despite the US reform campaign, as proof that the body could not be fixed. She also noted the council had failed to hold a single session on Venezuela, which is a council member, or Iran, despite its ruthless crushing of opposition demonstrations.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley, said: “Too many commitments have gone unfulfilled. President Trump wants to move the ball forward. From day one he has called out institutions or countries who say one thing and do another, and that’s precisely the problem at the human rights council.”

On Monday Mr Hussein has called the policy "unconscionable".

Some countries and diplomats were quick express disappointment about the US withdrawal.

The UNHRC's current president, Slovenian ambassador Vojislav Suc, said the body was the only one "responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide".

After the US decision to quit, he said, "it is essential that we uphold a strong and vibrant council".

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the decision was "regrettable", arguing that while reforms are needed, the UNHRC is "crucial to holding states to account".

The move comes amid intense criticism over the Trump administration's policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

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